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Going back to the Series

Southridge's Darwin Barney is headed back to the College World Series with OSU baseball
by: , READY TO GO – Southridge High graduate Darwin Barney and the rest of the Oregon State baseball team are ready to tackle their second straight College World Series.

OMAHA, Neb. - Darwin Barney and the rest of the Oregon State baseball team were, frankly, just happy to play in the 2005 College Baseball World Series.

Just getting there won't be good enough for Barney and the Beavers in 2006, though.

Barney, a 2004 graduate of Southridge High School who's now in his second starting season as OSU's shortstop, and the Pac-10 champion Beavers (44-14) open their second straight trip to the College Baseball World Series at 6 p.m. Saturday against the University of Miami (41-22), the fourth-place team from the Coastal Division of the ACC.

'We're very confident. There's a totally different feel going into it this year,' said Barney, 20, who batted .338 this season while starting all 58 games at shortstop and earning first-team All Pac-10 honors for the second straight season. 'Winning the Super Regional, we were excited, but we know there's more to come.'

At least the Beavers sure hope so.

In 2005, making their first trip to the College World Series in more than 50 years, the Beavers indeed looked like they were 'just happy to be there.' OSU lasted just two games - both losses (to Tulane and Baylor) - at last year's Series, and while the Beavers enjoyed the experience, they know they'll enjoy it more if they win.

The Beavers also know they have a chance to earn some well-deserved respect for West Coast baseball in general and Pac-10 baseball in particular if they play well at the Series, which opens Friday and continues through June 25/26 at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.

'We know the Pac-10 is underrated and the Northwest isn't really respected,' Barney said. 'It's disheartening a little bit, but our team feeds off that. We're always trying to prove ourselves. We're always trying to get better.'

OSU enters the College World Series on a pretty good roll, the winners of five straight playoff games (by an average margin of 9-2) and 10 of its last 11 contests.

The key to this year's Beaver team, Barney said, is its pitching, consistency, overall talent and ability to manufacture runs without a preponderance of home runs.

'One through nine, we're as powerful as it gets,' Barney said. 'It's just a matter of getting hits at the right time. We know how to score runs when we get on base.'

Like his team, Barney says he's much more focused in this, his second year in major college baseball, much more set on performance and much less intimidated.

'I'm definitely more confident this year being the guy, being the table setter,' he said. 'I feel like this year there's been less weight on my shoulders. I felt like the game slowed down for me this year. Now I'm just trying to put the ball in play, just trying to enjoy myself.'

It would be pretty easy to understand why Barney has enjoyed his stellar sophomore season. In addition to batting .338 (he hit .301 as a freshman), he was second on his team in at-bats (225), second in runs (48), second in hits (76), fifth in doubles (11), third in triples (three), sixth in RBIs (33), fourth in total bases (93), second in walks (38), third in on-base percentage (.435) and second in steals (14). In addition, Barney fielded .929 this year, making 185 assists and 89 putouts while committing 21 errors.

'I'm just glad I can help out,' Barney said. 'But I'm no more important than any other guy on the team.'

Now, with a great regular season under their belts, not to mention a blazing start to the postseason, the Beavers are ready to take the next step at the World Series.

'Last year it was fun to be there. Last year was fun and games,' Barney said. 'This year, it's a totally different feeling. It's not foreign. We're there to make a run at it.'